Lee goes on SNAP diet, will screen hunger film

With more than $20 billion in cuts proposed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as Food Stamps – in the 2014 Farm Bill, Rep. Barbara Lee is leading two dozen House members in a “SNAP Challenge,” living on the $4.50 per day food budget of an average SNAP recipient.

Lee, D-Oakland, issued a news release calling the proposed cuts “unconscionable and unacceptable.”

“When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance, and I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the vital lifeline that the American people extended to me,” she said. “SNAP is the difference between food on the table and a child going to bed hungry. I’m so encouraged by all my colleagues who are joining me for the SNAP Challenge, and I encourage folks from across the country to get engaged and join the chorus voicing opposition to these outrageous cuts.”

Lawmakers are updating the public on the challenges of eating on $4.50 by Tweeting at #SNAPchallenge. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is also taking part, and said, “We need Congress to understand what these cruel austerity measures mean on a personal level rather than a generic statistical sample.”

So Lee might be rather hungry tomorrow as she joins director Lori Silverbush for a free screening of the film, “A Place at the Table,” in 1 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, at 1000 Oak St. An official Sundance film festival selection, the movie brings millions of Americans’ experience of hunger into stark focus through the stories of three individuals living with food insecurity.

Lee and Silverbush will take part in a panel discussion after the screening, joined by Alameda County Community Food Bank Executive Director Suzan Bateson; Community Food and Justice Coalition Executive Director Y. Armando Nieto; and Alameda County Social Services Agency Director Lori Cox.

“With nearly 46 million people living in poverty in our nation and 173,000 in poverty in Alameda Country alone, it is far past time to address poverty and hunger,” Lee said.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    I’d like to see how the progs came up with the $4.50
    per diem Anyway, Ba Lee is gettin a bit hefty in the rear.

  • GV Haste

    I’ve got to tell you, if she is trying to tell us its hard living on $4.50 per day for food, I’m going to question that with some exceptions.

    Those exceptions would be if you have to eat any meals out.
    Or if you live in a food desert..(not that uncommon for many poor people).

    However if you can live in central Oakland, shop at Trader Joes, Farmer Joes (for veggies), and perhaps Food Maxx (Laurel District)..

    IF, and its a big if… If you can shop at those, or similar stores, then eating well on $4.50 is not hard at all (as long as you eat or take everything from home).

    I was curious about this about a year ago and ate my normal overly healthy diet, added up the costs for about 1 month and came up with $4.75 (not counting wine as I recall)

    Now, my diet may not be what most follow, but I can assure you it is far more in line with health guidelines than that eaten by 90% of Americans.

    Access to good stores can be a problem for some though.
    If you can’t drive to good supermarkets and produce stores, you can pay far more.

    I’d have to review it again, but I could eat quite well on $4.50 per day.
    Mind you, one can’t be grabbing all the processed and such foods you would like, but very do-able.

    A mother with 2 kids, $13.50 per day. Not a problem.
    About $100 per week.

    Now, I wouldn’t propose cutting the funding.

    In fact, I’d much prefer the farm bill include more of the subsidies go to farms that include vegetables, instead of the current billions for more corn.
    And stop the wacky ethanol subsidy via the cheap corn.

    I must say though, doing some of my shopping in the Laurel District, seeing what is in the carts of some poorer residents, it is easy to see how they struggle to get by on $4.50 with so many poor choices they are purchasing.
    Its a wonder the human body can survive on some of the stuff being bought.
    How much “food” money is wasted on sugared beverages of all sorts. Amazing products. Water and sugar.

    Nutrition education, access/transportation, and desire to eat well. With those, you can get by on $4.50 for healthy food.

    Obviously not eveyone has all of the above.

  • jessica bartholow

    California has the worst poverty rate* in the country and four million Californians rely on food stamps to prevent hunger. Eighty-three percent of all Food Stamp benefits go to households with a child, senior, or disabled person. I applaud Representatives Lee and Huffman for taking part in the Food Stamp Challenge and the Tribune for covering this important issue.

    *Source: US Census Bureau 2013 Supplemental Poverty Measure.

  • Elwood

    How much is Church’s and a 40?

  • RR senile columnist

    Here’s a mean, heartless suggestion to the deserving poor: Leave California. An uneducated, unskilled guy or gal can live better almost anywhere else, even Arizona or Nevada. DC ranks high in the poverty ranks, too. There isn’t much demand for unskilled labor in the capital.

  • Publius

    I feel for the poor. I do not believe it is the governments place to coerce tax dollars from it’s citizens or borrow money in the citizens name to feed the poor. By reducing funding you are not forcing someone to live on $4.50 per day, that argument makes no sense. We all have choices. The more government intercedes our freedom to choose becomes limited.

    Instead of making a stupid public display Barbara and Huff should dig into their pockets and truly help the hungry.

    The best cure for hunger and poverty is a free market bound by a limited government.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Trader Joe’s in Lafayette, gives truckloads of food to the food bank daily. How can anyone in California go hungry?
    When poor people are shown on TV. Many are obese. Obviously, they are not working very hard for their food. This defies evolution. 50% of the babies born in this state are on public assistance, something is out of whack.

  • GV Haste

    Classic post by a Lamorindan.

  • Elwood

    Bruce’s post is true.

    His residence is irrelevant.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Lafayette’s Trader Joe’s had some obese beggars accosting people as they left the store. They had a metal box for morons to put their money in. I wrote a letter to the editors of the corrupt liberal “Newspapers”, suggesting the beggars were not a legitimate charity. It turns out they were not a charity at all, but a sham, giving commissions to the beggars. They are gone. I no longer need carry out assistance, to get by the annoying beggars.
    The story about the 50% of the babies born in California under public assistance, came from Democrat Joan Buchanan.

  • RR senile columnist

    #10: Once again we are confronted with the stark contrast between the Deserving and the Undeserving Poor. I admit a sneaking admiration for the latter, who tug at our heart-strings in the best Victorian manner. All that’s missing is the cry “Alms for the poor!” This being America, very thin beggars are a rarity. The only emaciated Californians I have seen are blonde. As Brecht put it: “The rich have hard hearts but weak stomachs.”

  • Lanelle

    I am so tired of hearing about politicians going on a food stamp diet. This has been done already over and over again. I think its time for the politicians to stop trying to be the sympathetic person who does it for one month and then goes back to their normal routine. Here is a new concept, change it! Stop talking about how hard it is, fix it. I would also like to challenge the good meaning sympathetic politician to try living on the same fixed/low or even average income of the majority of people and try finding a place to live and pay the rent AS WELL as feed themselves. The cost of housing in the bay area is beyond ridiculous.

  • RR senile columnist

    To Lanelle: But ex-Panther Lee needs to lose a few lbs!

  • GV Haste

    Lanelle Says– “Here is a new concept, change it!”

    I’m all for the food stamp program, SNAP, but what do you mean by “change it” ?

    Are you suggesting that $4.50 per day is not enough?
    If so, just how high do you think it needs to be.
    Say, a single mother, with two children.
    Thats $13.50 per day.

    Just wondering what “change it” means.
    Put a number on it.

  • MichaelB


    The “change” is something that is lost on Lee and the rest of her party. It is preferable that more people (for themselves and the taxpayers) be employed/self reliant instead of on food stamps and/or increasing payments to those already on the program.

    But, I forgot. That would suggest/require criticism of Obama’s failed government empowerment/spread the wealth around “economic” policies. And to do something different so that businesses hire people.

    Lee probably just thinks we need more of the same, the “rich” are just not paying enough taxes, entitlements have to be increased, 401(k) accounts need to be raided, etc.

  • RR senile columnist

    BabLee may have mistakenly thought it’s a SNAPPLE diet

  • GV Haste

    Barbara Lee’s SNAP diet.

    SNAP (Somebody needs additional publicity)